Queensland will extend its border zone with New South Wales from 1am Thursday 1 October to include Ballina, Casino and other areas along the length of the border.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the change would support people and businesses in the border communities.
“Our strong borders have kept Queenslanders safe and allowed us to keep our economy going, businesses open and people working.
“Thanks to our health response and falling numbers of the virus, we can now take a gradual approach to easing these restrictions.
“So many residents of Northern New South Wales get their services from Queensland and this will allow them to return to supporting Queensland businesses.”
Queensland will also remove the northern boundary of the border zone entirely, meaning residents of the approved areas could now access the entire state.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said Queenslanders had done a remarkable job responding to recent clusters south of Brisbane and in Ipswich.
“Queenslanders have heeded the advice, got tested in large numbers, stayed home when sick and practiced social distancing.
“That’s meant we’ve been able to limit the spread of these COVID clusters and we’re on track to easing local restrictions soon.
“Queensland is one of the safest places in the world right now because of this strong health response and that puts us in the best position to deliver Queensland’s economic recovery plan.”
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the border zone expansion was part of Queensland Health’s end-of-month assessment of Covid-19 protection measures.
“This expansion means border residents in these new areas can cross the border for any purpose,” said Dr Young.
Dr Young said she had taken a range of factors into consideration, including: the lack of Covid-19 cases in the expanded New South Wales border zone over an extended period, the overall drop in Covid-19 cases in New South Wales, Queensland’s strong work containing its recent cluster, the significant range and number of Queensland services and activities that people as far south as Ballina and Casino access.
“New South Wales has done well and Queensland has done brilliantly,” said Dr Young.
“The fact there have been no cases in these expanded areas for some time is only one factor I’ve taken into consideration.
“It has also been important to understand whether COVID-19 carriers were moving across New South Wales and seeding uninfected areas of the state with the virus.
“We also needed to know that during September, Queensland had its recent cluster under control.
“Those factors have convinced me that the risk of increasing the border zone to these new areas is minimal.
“While the total number of people inside the border zone may only be a small percentage of the New South Wales population, I accept a number of people there have a deep and important relationship with Queensland.
“While National Cabinet has not yet considered a national definition for hotspots and how intra and interstate travel can be managed consistently across the country, I am confident this is safe.
“Of course, if we suddenly see cases in Northern New South Wales before next Wednesday, we will not put these measures in place but I am not expecting that.”
The border zone is not intended to act as a quarantine zone for the two states. It is there to enable the movement of residents within the NSW border zone into Queensland, or for Queenslanders to travel down into the NSW border zone.
The announcement follows plans to further open Queensland to the Australian Capital Territory from 1am Friday 25 September 2020, pending the continuation of zero new cases.
Five Local Government Area’s (LGAs) in NSW will be added to the Border Zone: Byron Shire, Ballina Shire, City of Lismore, Richmond Valley (Casino, Evans Head) and Glen Innes Severn Shire.